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09/22/10 2:53 AM ET
Santana shuts out Rangers, wins 17th
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Ervin Santana delivered some old-school hardball on Tuesday night, and the reward was a career high in wins for a season. Tying the Rangers in knots, Santana outdueled Colby Lewis in the Angels' 2-0 decision in front of 41,707 at Angel Stadium. Santana's fifth career shutout and first of the season took two hours and 12 minutes to complete, calling to mind the good old days, before Santana was born in 1982, when the Angels played at a rapid pace. "Work quickly, throw strikes," Santana said with clarity and brevity when asked for the formula to his success. Texas' magic number for winning the American League West remained at six. The Rangers lead the second-place Athletics by seven games with 12 to play. The Angels, division champions three straight years and five of the past six, are 8 1/2 games out of first. The five-hit shutout was reminiscent of Santana's previous blanking -- a four-hit gem against Texas that clinched the AL West for the Angels last Sept. 29. "The only flashback I remember is looking at the scoreboard," Santana said. The man from San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, is driving to the finish line with wins in seven of his past eight decisions. Having established a career high with 17 victories against nine losses, he figures to have two more starts, meaning a 20-win season is unlikely. "He was dealing," the Rangers' Nelson Cruz said. "He just didn't give us anything. Everything was on the corners. He was pitching really, really good." Hank Conger, making his fourth start behind the plate for the Angels, called all the right pitches for Santana and got the offense rolling in the second inning. He went down for a pitch and banged it off the wall in right-center, dashing into third for a triple. When Kevin Frandsen grounded to second, Conger cruised home. "There's no doubt he'll drive the ball," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Conger. "He had a real good read coming around second. Speed isn't a tool you associate with Hank, but that's a big base, and it was impressive." Hideki Matsui, showing there is life in his legs, manufactured a run with his aggression on the bases in the fourth. Matsui doubled past first base leading off and moved to third on Mike Napoli's fly ball to right field. When Conger hit a roller to first, Matsui bolted home, forcing a high throw by Mitch Moreland that sailed over catcher Bengie Molina for an error, allowing Conger to reach second. Lewis stranded him. Lewis fell to 11-13 despite striking out 10 hitters in seven innings, allowing two earned runs on four hits and two walks. Santana didn't allow a runner to reach scoring position until he encountered trouble in the sixth. Julio Borbon and Elvis Andrus singled with one away in the frame, but Michael Young struck out and David Murphy grounded out. "Me and Conger were on the same page the whole game," Santana said. "The only time he's caught me was in the bullpen. He's good behind the plate. We talked before the game and got on the same page. "They're a great team. It's not easy. It takes a lot of focus. I had to throw strikes, and everything was good." Santana was a 16-game winner in 2006 and again in '08. Even-numbered seasons bring out the best in him for some odd reason. "It's an impressive performance for Ervin to have pitched as deep in games as he has," Scioscia said. "He's gotten a little more run support than Weav [Jered Weaver], but he's had to grind out every win he's had, and he's done that. He's thrown the ball as well as we've seen him." Vladimir Guerrero, who'd singled in the second but was erased on a double play, walked leading off the seventh and advanced on Cruz's bunt. Santana retired Ian Kinsler on a fly ball and struck out pinch-hitter Chris Davis. "Only fastballs to Vlad," Santana said. "I don't throw him any breaking balls. He crushes them." Borbon reached scoring position in the eighth with a single and steal, but Santana struck out Andrus and Young. Santana faced only one batter over the minimum through five innings, moving into eighth place on the Angels' all-time strikeout list when he put away Moreland to end the fifth. It was Santana's 845th career K. Santana began the season with a 1-3 record after seven starts. A five-game winning streak starting on May 15 against the A's got him moving in the right direction. "He was himself," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He spotted his fastball and threw his breaking ball in fastball counts. He changed speeds. That's what he does." The Angels drew even with the Rangers in the season series at seven wins apiece. Dan Haren will try to give the Angels a series sweep on Wednesday night, when he faces Texas southpaw C.J. Wilson.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.